Given the complexity and severity of the challenges facing our country, it is easy to understand how facts are misunderstood. I wish the facts that I offered were false, that the reality is not as bad as I made it sound. But, the facts and figures I offered are true. I wish that Medicare were not going to go bankrupt in six years. I wish the President’s budget would balance. I wish the demographic outlook for our nation was better so that programs on which many of our retirees plan to depend were solvent.
Before going point-by-point, allow me to say that I sincerely appreciate the investigative journalism that the Kiowa County Signal recently attempted. Far too often media outlets take whatever information they are given and accept it at face-value, failing to assess the claims made by elected officials.
First, it is in fact true that Medicare may be bankrupt in as few as six years. According to the Congressional Budget Office – a nonpartisan, nonpolitical research entity that provides projections for both the House and the Senate – the Hospital Trust Fund is expected to be exhausted in Fiscal Year 2019. That is only six years from the current Fiscal Year 2013 budget. Annual massive shortfalls of $14.9 billion and $39.7 billion are expected for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021, respectively. Source (see page 6): http://cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/medicare2011.pdf
One major disruption that we do not need is the raid of $500 billion from Medicare to fund the President’s health care law. ObamaCare establishes the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), a panel of 15 unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats who will have tremendous authority to implement $500 billion in Medicare cuts to finance ObamaCare.
Second, the proposed budget from President Obama does not balance within 75 years. Because there is no measurement past the next 75 years, we cannot say beyond that. And no one should be impressed that the President’s budget “stabilizes” debt. All that means is that it slows the rate at which debt is added – but grow it still does. And how it has grown under President Obama – from $10.6 trillion (on January 20, 2009) to $15.4 trillion (on March 6, 2012)! Over the next decade, the President’s budget adds still another $10.5 trillion, leaving America’s children and grandchildren with $25.9 trillion in debt in 2022. (see Supplemental Tables at http://budget.gov).
Third, about 10,000 Baby Boomers do turn 65 each day. According to the Pew Research Center – a nonpolitical research institution that tracks demographic and political data – from 2011 to 2030, America can expect about 10,000 new “seniors” each day. This demographic reality – combined with the fact that our birth rate is declining – presents very serious challenges for the programs that are supposed to support our retirees. While in 1950 there were 16 workers per retiree; in 2010 there were 2.8 per retiree; and, in 2030 – when all of the Boomers are aged 65 or older – the ratio will be 1.9 per retiree.
Page 2 of 2 - Fourth, to clarify the point on fuel limits: the 502 gallon limit exemption is granted to farmers, but not to the custom harvesters on which so many of our farms rely. Nationally, about 40 percent of wheat and 25 percent of other crops are harvested by custom harvesters; and a limit on these harvesters only increases the costs that Kansas farmers pay.
Again, I am sincerely grateful for the Kiowa County Signal checking the words they hear. I hope this will become a standard practice for anyone held – or seeking to be held – in the public trust. I appreciate that this response is being run in the paper, so that we can have an open and informed dialogue about the facts facing our future.
Emailed to The Signal by Karen Steward, Communications Director, Karen.Steward@mail.house.gov